Scholars who revived the culture of antiquity and the study of classical literature. The Renaissance, which heightened enthusiasm for the classics, began in Italy in the fifteenth century. From Italy humanism advanced to France, Holland, and other European countries. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it gained great influence in Germany and cleared the way for the Reformation. The most prominent German humanists were Hutten and Reuchlin, both contemporaries ofLuther. Reuchlin called attention to the importance of the study of Hebrew, and gained for it a place in the curricula of the German universities. As a strong defender of Hebrew literature against the attacks of Pfefferkorn and his accomplices, he also vindicated the cause of the Jews and pleaded for the freedom of science and for humanity. Although not all humanists were free from anti-Jewish prejudices, humanism, and through it the Reformation, brought relief to the Jews and mitigated the severity of the exceptional laws under which they had suffered in the Middle Ages.
- Ludwig Geiger, Renaissance und Humanismus, Berlin, 1882.